I am leaving Twitter. This morning as the inauguration proceeds I will post my final series of tweets. To be honest, I haven’t been active on Twitter in quite some time. I am not a trail-blazer in my decision. Just a few weeks ago Lindy West wrote a brilliant piece on her decision to leave Twitter. And she isn’t the first -- nor will I be the last.
Over the last year or so, I watched as what had once been a fun place to meet other writers around the world devolve into a place for trolls to shill their cruelty and for even non-trolls to compete in the trolling game, eviscerating their political and personal foes in 140 characters or less. Everyone seemed to be engaged in nothing but self-promotion. And my feed filled with garbage to the point that sorting out the good became burdensome. And then there is the fake news.
All of this is part of our exercise of free speech. People have the right to self-promote, to be clever and, to a degree, to be cruel, just as I have the right to call them out on it. But then I watched the racist vitriol flung at comedian Leslie Jones -- and subsequently watched Twitter stand by and do next to nothing about it.
Twitter is a free platform. And we all agree to certain rules including rules about making violent threats, harassment, “hateful conduct,” and self-harm. However, it is clear that Twitter does not have a good method for dealing with such infractions as the Leslie Jones case made visible. And that is the most egregious example of a omnipresent problem both on Twitter and other forms of social media. People post things they would never say face-to-face, and a catty cruelty has replaced common decency at this international water cooler. No one is entitled to a Twitter account. No one.
But my biggest problem with Twitter is simply this: it is filled with fake news (the real kind, not the Trump kind). Over the summer I noticed pro-Trump accounts spreading false and misleading stories -- and so many of those accounts were clearly linked to Russia. For example, in October the LA Times published this piece Trump Backers tweet #Repealthe19th after Polls Show He’d Win if Only Men Voted. But in looking at the Twitter accounts cited in the story, they were all clearly Russian, pro-Putin trolls. I contacted the author of the story. And I wrote a journalist friend that day saying, “The Twitter accounts cited here both appear to be Russian trolls. They repeatedly retweet pro-Putin propaganda disguised as pro-Trump tweets. And in trying to track down the real people behind the accounts, they are suspiciously non-dimensional.” Sure enough, a few weeks later we were talking about the Russians interfering in the election -- but it was too little too late.
Some argue that abandoning Twitter is giving in. Some say that we should flood it with good content, decent conversation, meaningful dialogue. That is noble, but I see Twitter as part of the problem of disinformation -- not part of the solution. I don’t read Breitbart News because I know that it represents the worst of yellow journalism -- if what they publish can even be called “journalism.” Why would I give my time, my words, my energy to a platform which allows Breitbart and trolls and Russian tweet farms to thrive? In the name of free speech, I say “Enough! No more!” and I walk away.
And let me be clear: this is not about Right or Left, Democrat or Republican. I am a moderate. I have voted for Democrats. I have voted for Republicans. This is not about Hillary Clinton losing. This is not about my fondness for President Obama.
This is about truth. And decency. And the future of the American Republic.
We are a country in crisis. It is a crisis of confidence bred by two decades of bitter partisanship and a bubbling current of racism, misogyny, and discrimination to which social media like Twitter gives voice and new power. Spreading fake news is easy and free on Twitter. Assembling hateful mobs to eviscerate strangers is easy and free on Twitter. Promoting propaganda and undermining elections and democracies are both easy and free on Twitter. The effects are devastating.
Being part of Twitter is being part of the problem.
So, I am abandoning Twitter to the trolls, the self-promoters, the racists, the Russians, Vladimir Putin, and the 45th President of the United States. I chose truth. I choose beauty. I choose kindness and goodness and joy and love.
And I choose to fight like hell for the United States of America and the rights and liberties those who came before me secured.
My first step: bidding Twitter good-bye!
If you want to connect going forward, and I hope you do, follow me here: